ASHLAND — Ashland County Commissioners on Thursday committed $500,000 to the construction of a new childcare facility.
The money offers a significant boost to Foundations Community Childcare Inc. The non-profit organization is raising a total of $4.5 million for a 12,400 square-foot facility that would care for up to 200 children in the area.
County commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of the pledge, which allocates $500,000 of the county’s latest chunk of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. The move comes nearly two months following the organization’s $500,000 ask in early May.
Commissioner Denny Bittle dissented, saying he would rather see that pledge cut in half.
“It’s not the project — I think the dollar amount is a little heavy for me,” he said, adding he’s concerned about using taxpayer dollars on a non-profit that is not guaranteed to survive long term.
“I have seen some non-profits that have raised tons of money and five or 10 years down the road the economy changes, things change, and then they’re not able to survive,” Bittle said.
The facility will be built along Ford Drive, in Ashland’s industrial park, with room for up to 200 children under the age of 13. Aspin has said the building’s design has room to grow in the future.
The $500,000 pledge will be donated to the organization as a so-called “capstone grant,” meaning the money is guaranteed once it can show the county it has raised the necessary funds.
The money will then be administered and distributed through the Community Improvement Corporation of Ashland, according to the commissioners’ resolution of the action.
Despite his concerns and “no” vote, Bittle congratulated the team behind raising money for the childcare facility.
“You’ve done a tremendous job,” he said. “It’s hardworking people like you who make Ashland County so great and continue to be great … without the drive you guys have, this county would never be where it’s at.”
Commissioner Mike Welch said he understood Bittle’s concerns, but the county’s support of the project is not just support of the childcare facility.
“It’s a great tool in the toolbox for economic development. And we know that that’s one of the No. 1 stumbling blocks for getting people to work. Childcare is a need and that’s why I voted the way I did,” Welch said.
Commissioner Jim Justice said he has no doubt Foundations Community Childcare will succeed well into the future. He said the organization’s model will be adopted around the country.
“I think this is the beginning of something really great,” he said, adding the $500,000 amount doesn’t bother him.
“It’s a necessary step to make this happen,” Justice said.
Kristin Aspin, chief program officer of the Ashland County Community Foundation, thanked the commissioners for the pledge. She said the organization has received $3.1 million of the $3.5 million needed for start-up.
She said an endowment fund has been started, with $10,000 as seed money. The Foundation hopes to raise $1 million as an endowment.
“This project will allow parents to enter or remain in the workforce, give kids a safe and nurturing environment, help our local businesses thrive and spur economic development in our community,” she said.
The foundation’s Women’s Fund discovered in May 2021 (through a survey) that 72% of respondents would be likely to use a childcare facility near work. The majority of those people also said they struggle to find affordable care.
To review, Ashland County received $5.2 million in June 2021, its first half of ARPA money. The second half hit county coffers earlier this month, for a grand total of $10.4 million that can be used for government services and replacing lost monies experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(For a searchable chart that tracks individual amounts, click here.)
ARP funds must be appropriated by 2024 and expended by the end of 2026.